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Happy Birthday, Queen Elizabeth II

Celebrating the ninetieth birthday of Queen Elizabeth II

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To explore and celebrate the life of Britain's longest-reigning monarch.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.

  • Optional: you may wish to have available a video of the National Anthem being sung (available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9eK9fWUb3s) and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.

Assembly

Leader: At 2.40 in the morning on 21 April 1926, a princess was born in Mayfair in London. Her parents were the Duke and Duchess of York, later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The new princess was named Elizabeth. On 21 April 2016, she will be 90 years old. We know her as Queen Elizabeth II.

Reader 1: Elizabeth was never expected to become a queen. Her uncle, Edward, Prince of Wales, was in line to become the next king. Elizabeth was merely third in line, after her father, so hers was a fairly relaxed, wealthy childhood, enjoying the benefits of large country estates and the life of London. Elizabeth's uncle, Edward, went on to become King Edward VIII in 1936, but gave up the throne later the same year so that he could marry an American woman whom he loved. The throne went to Elizabeth’s father, who became King George VI. This meant that, on her father's death, Elizabeth would become the ruler - at this point, everything changed for her.

Reader 2: Princess Elizabeth was educated at home in the skills and knowledge that were needed to be a queen. She studied constitutional history and law, and the religion of the Anglican Church. She also learned to speak French as an important second language. Publicly, she became the focus of much interest, with her hobbies, friendships and travels filling the pages of the national press. She became a role model for young people during the Second World War. It was a young life lived very much in the public eye, particularly regarding her growing relationship with the dapper Philip Mountbatten, whom she married in 1947.

Leader: On 2 June 1953, Elizabeth was crowned Queen at a ceremony in Westminster Abbey. She has since become the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

Reader 1: Queen Elizabeth has always carried herself with grace and dignity. She has not been one to court public attention and she has never used the power of the throne to gain personal influence or attention. Instead, she has preferred to watch and listen before forming her opinions. She has been prominent in ceremonies relating to the Irish Republic, even though her cousin was murdered by a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army, or IRA. She has observed massive changes in the world, including changes in the Commonwealth, of which she is Sovereign. In all aspects of her life, she has remained consistent and faithful to her role as Queen.

Reader 2: The Queen’s family life has generated the mix of emotions common to many British parents. There have been the pleasures of marriages, anniversaries, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There have also been the disappointments of failed marriages and complex emotions such as those surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
At times, the Queen herself has also been at risk. During a procession on horseback, a gun was fired at her. The shot was later found to be a blank, but the experience must have been shocking. Similarly, early one morning, she found an intruder in her bedroom. Who knows what might have happened if she hadn't been so calm in dealing with the man.

Leader: We can see that the life of the Queen has had its ups and downs, just like everyone else. What deserves our praise and respect is the way in which she has not only coped with the challenges, but also lived a fully rounded life. Her marriage to Prince Philip has remained strong. She has retained her sense of humour with wry remarks and practical jokes. She has enjoyed her personal passions, particularly corgis and horse racing. Above all, she has retained her sense of duty with dignity and respect. People may have different views about the Royal Family, but no one can deny that Queen Elizabeth II has made a remarkable success of her role.

Time for reflection

Leader: It's rare nowadays for people to show the long-term commitment that the Queen has shown throughout her long life. At 90 years old, she deserves to be both congratulated and treasured. She has been described as ‘a rock’, a symbol of stability in a rapidly changing society. Change is necessary, but we also need ‘rocks’ to help us to build a better future.

Happy birthday, Queen Elizabeth II!

Prayer
Dear Lord,
Thank you for the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
When we are tempted to give up, please remind us of her commitment and let it inspire us.
Like her, may we also be ‘rocks’ on which the future can be built.
Amen.

You may also wish to use the National Anthem as a prayer.

God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen.

Song/music

You may wish to sing the National Anthem together, or listen to it being sung (available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9eK9fWUb3s).

‘If I ruled the world’ by Jamie Cullum

Publication date: April 2016   (Vol.18 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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